Preaching Symposium held at Truett Seminary

Dennis Phelps speaks at The Significance of Preaching from the Prophets to the Present at George W. Truett Theological Seminary. Jessica Hubble | Multimedia Journalist

By Brooke Hill | Staff Writer

Speakers from across the nation came to share their knowledge Monday, Sept. 11, and Tuesday, Sept. 12 at George W. Truett Theological Seminary.

The preaching symposium, titled The Significance of Preaching from the Prophets to the Present, included 17 speakers. Each speaker was specialized in one particular block of history.

Attendees from all over the nation were welcomed to attend. Truett Seminary held a block of hotel rooms at the Hilton hotel and the Courtyard Marriott. The general admission cost was $100 for both days, with a cost of $25 for Truett students. It was sponsored by The Kyle Lake Center for Effective Preaching, Institute for Studies of Religion and George W. Truett Theological Seminary.

“The reason for the symposium is to examine the significance of preaching in different periods of Christian history, and so we looked for scholars who were experts in those particular periods of Christian history,” said Hulitt Gloer, Director of the Kyle Lake Center for Effective Preaching.

The symposium is focused on moving through the timeline of Christian history and discussing its effect on current preaching.

“We’ll be asking the question all along of whether the implications of what we learned from each period informs preaching today,” Gloer said. “Hopefully people will go away with an understanding of how preaching today can be informed by preaching in history and how we can be more effective today because of our awareness of what’s gone before.”

The symposium opened with Walter Brueggemann, who is described as “one of the most influential Bible interpreters of our time” in the program for the symposium. Brueggemann is the author of over 100 books and scholarly articles.

“He is probably the most renowned scholar on the prophets in the Old Testament anywhere today, so he was a natural choice,” Gloer said.

Brueggemann opened his speech by outlining the world in which the ancient prophets lived.

“The world in which these ancient prophets did their work was a world of concentrated power and wealth, that sought technology and imagination,” Brueggemann said. “The purpose of that wealth and power on one hand was to control all technology; on the other hand the purpose was to control all imagination.”

He also took the time to compare the world of the ancient prophets to our world today.

“As a successor to Rome, the US empire prefers a soft legitimacy in liturgic imagination as expressed in the NFL,” Brueggemann said. “Consider one bowing his knee during the national anthem and is now unemployed. We cannot tolerate dissent.”

The symposium concluded Tuesday afternoon with the speech of Leonard Sweet of Drew Theological school. Sweet is the author of more than 200 articles, over 1300 published sermons and more than 50 books, including best-sellers Soul Tsunami and Aqua Church.

“Leonard Sweet is an expert on how the church and the culture meet and what the future looks like for the church and for teaching,” Gloer said.

Sweet said we see sermons thousands of times every day. He considers every advertisement that we see as a sermon because it’s the world’s way of communicating messages.

“We call them advertisements and commercials but they are this culture’s way of preaching,” Sweet said.

Sweet spoke about how many Christians know the verses, but not the context of the stories surrounding them. As an example, he asked the crowd to say John 3:16 in unison. Everyone did. Then he asked them to say John 3:15. Not one person in the room knew the rest of the story or the context surrounding the famous verse.

“Every single sermon out there is telling us ‘Build your life like my story. Trust my story,” Sweet said. “And preaching in the 22nd century has got to find ways to tell this culture there is only one story you trust your life to. And that is the Jesus story. Whoever you allow to author your life is your authority. It’s time we said the only person worthy of authoring your life story…is Jesus.”

When the event ended, attendees had spent more than 11 hours listening to speakers, not including time spent in worship and in discussion.

“I think the event went really well,” said Shawn Boyd, Office Manager for the Kyle Lake Center for Effective Preaching and coordinator of the symposium. “I think people were surprised at just the rich history that just looking at christianity’s preaching aspect one of the ways that we talk about god how thats developed through time and how that’s kind of developed the church. I think people would be surprised by just the depth of all the content and how many ways there are to talk about it and think about it.”

Other speakers at the event included Elesha Coffman, Timothy George, Scott Gibson, Joel Gregory, Philip Jenkins, Thomas Kidd, Carolyn Ann Knight, Claybon Lea Jr., Thomas Long, Eugene Lowry, Winfred Neely, Dennis Phelps, David Wilhite, Paul Scott Wilson and Ben Witherington.

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